Products Liability for Marijuana Injury
California is on the verge of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. When this happens, a booming marijuana industry is sure to thrive in the state, but like any industry that sells products to consumers, it will be subject to California’s products liability law. (If marijuana is made legal at the federal level, certain federal product liability laws will apply as well; however, those are not discussed here.)
California Product Liability Law
The basic rule is that a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable if an unreasonably dangerous defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while being used in a reasonably foreseeable way. California follows a strict liability rule, meaning a plaintiff does not need to prove that a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer was negligent.
It is important to note that, in California, complying with regulations does not absolve a company from liability in a products liability suit.
To win a product liability claim, a plaintiff needs to prove the following:
- The product had an unreasonably dangerous defect;
- The plaintiff was injured; and
- The injury was caused by the defect.
A defect could be:
- A manufacturer defect (i.e., the product was not made according to design specifications);
- A design defect (i.e., the product was manufactured according to plan but is still defective because the design itself is flawed); or
- A failure to warn of known risks.
Doctrine of Comparative Fault
The California Supreme Court has held that if a plaintiff’s own actions were partly to blame for the injury, the defendant’s liability may be reduced under the doctrine of comparative fault. For instance, if a plaintiff was found to be 25% at fault, compensation for damages would be reduced by 25%.
Statute of Limitations
Under the California Statute of Limitations, a product liability claim must be made within two years of the date the injury was discovered or should have been discovered. If the claim is not filed within this time, it is barred.
Examples of Marijuana Injury Product Liability Cases
Legal marijuana products are new in the United States, and only a handful of states have legalized recreational use, but product liability lawsuits have already been brought against manufacturers of defective marijuana products.
The company LivWell Inc. was sued in 2015 for using a potentially dangerous pesticide on the marijuana it grew and sold for recreational use in Colorado. It was discovered that the pesticide contained a chemical called myclobutanil, which produces hydrogen cyanide gas when burned. This lawsuit was ultimately dismissedbecause the plaintiffs couldn’t prove the chemical had caused an injury. This does serve as a good example of the type of case that could be brought against a marijuana product manufacturer or retailer, however.
Claims could also arise due to inappropriate packaging or inadequate warning labels. When it comes to marijuana edibles or oils, manufacturers and retailers have a duty to accurately communicate the strength of their product. A failure to do so could lead to a valid products liability claim.
How to File a Product Liability Lawsuit
If you have been injured by a defective product, you have a right to seek compensation. Product liability cases can be complex, so you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand your case, assess your chances of success, gather evidence for you, and ensure that your case is filed before the statute of limitations expires.
Scott D. Hughes handles personal injury and products liability suits in Orange County and Los Angeles County. If you would like more information or to discuss your case, please contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes today at 714-423-6931.